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Best time to eat cannabis edibles

For Best Results, Eat Cannabis Edibles After A Meal

I have to admit that I thought the notion of consuming cannabis edibles after eating a substantial meal seemed counterintuitive. Once I read the article clarifying the science behind this recommendation, it made perfect sense. This post explains why you will reap the most benefits from your cannabis edibles if you eat a high-fat meal before you take them.

I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that you would get better absorption of cannabinoids via edibles on an empty stomach. Not only is that incorrect, but if you take edibles without food, you are much more likely to experience the side effects of anxiety and paranoia. The effects of the THC will hit you much more quickly and harder. It can make your heart race and may be too intense an experience for many patients. Is this due to the physiological response of the faster absorption of THC or is there an entirely different explanation?

To understand why you should ingest cannabis edibles on a full stomach, it is crucial to understand the process of drug absorption in the human body. Contrary to the misconception that absorption takes place in the stomach, it actually almost entirely happens in the small intestine. Think of the stomach as a holding place where partially-digested food is steadily released into the small intestine. By eating a meal, gastric emptying slows and limits movement of the cannabinoids to the small intestine where they can be absorbed.

In fact, a study at the Department of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, demonstrated that THC slows the rate of gastric emptying by 50%. In a random double-blind, placebo-controlled study, half of the healthy volunteers were given the dosage of THC used for preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The other half received a placebo. The researchers concluded that only those who received the THC experienced significant delay in the gastric emptying of solid food.

The second thing to understand about drug absorption is that it cannot be absorbed in a solid state; it must be in a solution for absorption to take place.The lower the solubility of a drug, the longer it takes to be absorbed. Because THC and other cannabinoids are highly lipophilic, substances that combine/dissolve in lipids or fatty acids, they have low solubility in water. When you eat a high-fat meal, this causes the gallbladder to release bile acids, increasing the solubility of the THC molecules. The end result is an increase in the rate and level of absorption.

We also have to consider permeability, defined as the ability of a drug to cross a lipid membrane. You guess it. Higher permeability is better for drug absorption. There are substances in the intestines that speed up cannabinoid absorption by increasing the rate at which they are pumped across the membrane.

Next, we have to examine the effect of food on cannabinoid absorption using the following 3 cannabinoids:

  • 9-tetrahydrocannabinol commonly known as THC
  • CBD which counteracts the psychotropic effects of THC
  • 11-OH-THC, a highly psychotropic metabolite which is formed within the human body after ingesting THC

A study, carried out by GW Pharma, Salisbury, UK, substantiates the hypothesis that when taken on a full stomach, the absorption rate of cannabinoids via cannabis edibles is much higher. In this case, Sativex, an oral spray, was used.  It is a cannabis extract that is 1:1 THC:CBD. It simulates that of an edible since it is almost entirely swallowed.

Subjects were given the same dosage of 4 sprays equaling 10 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD under 2 different conditions:

  • Fasting; no food for 10 hours before or 4 hours after ingesting cannabis
  • Fed; high-fat meal was eaten within a 30 minute period prior to ingesting cannabis

The results were the following:

Absorption Rate

Fasting group

  • THC and CBD were rapidly absorbed reaching peak blood concentrations at 90 minutes
  • 11-OH-THC was absorbed at about 2 hours

Fed group

  • All 3 cannabinoids reached peak blood concentrations at 4 hours


Fed group

  • THC was 2.8-fold higher
  • CBD was 4.1-fold higher
  • 11-OTH-THC was about the same in both groups

On a final note, here is a possible explanation on why many patients experience anxiety when taking cannabis edibles on an empty stomach. Neither faster THC absorption nor the formation of 11-OH-THC is the responsible for this response. The anxiety comes from the combination of THC and 11-OH-THC described as ‘total THC’ when compared to the ratio of CBD.

  • Fed patients showed a ‘total THC’ to CBD ratio of about 3 at peak blood concentrations
  • Fasting patients showed a ‘total THC’ to CBD ratio of about 9; 3 times higher

To summarize how to get the most benefits from cannabis edibles:

  • Start low and increase the dosage slowly
  • Eat a substantial meal with fat before medicating
  • Expect it to take 4 hours to experience the most benefits
  • Eating a meal boosts CBD absorption 4-fold

Feel free to leave your comments about this article and share your experiences!

Source:, Why You Shouldn’t Take Cannabis Edibles on an Empty Stomach, July 9, 2016

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